By Farkhanda Qaiser
For the first few minutes, we couldn’t understand what was going on in the court room. There was a lot of hustle and bustle, because more doctors kept pouring in.
As there was no more seating space so they stood in front of us. This greatly hampered our view so we decided to get up from our chairs and move ahead. This proved to be a more tedious job than I had expected. After several ‘Excuse mes’ and ‘Sorrys’ I finally reached at a place where I could see the face of the Judge and hear someone speaking. The voice was very sober and confident. It was presenting arguments in favor of the Punjab Government. Therefore I guessed it to be that of Additional Advocate General, Mr. Faisal Zaman. He was pleading the court to close the case as doctors had called off the strike so there was nothing left to argue on.
At that time, another voice intervened saying that there were still four doctors behind bars who had been falsely booked under Section 302 of PPC in connection with the death of a child at a government hospital. I tried to guess this low-pitched and restrained voice. As I had been avidly following talk shows and press conferences regarding doctors’ issue for the last many days, so I was well acquainted with the faces of prominent members of YDA (Young Doctors’ Association) Punjab. However in this packed crowd, I stood no chance of seeing the faces of the people who were talking, especially because some 6-feet tall doctors wearing black armbands were standing right in front of me. One of them even held an ‘Ophthalmology’ book. This sight assured me that doctors and books are kind of inseparable even when these doctors are striking and attending a hearing in a courtroom. Wow this is called dedication. *salutes*
Coming back to the unknown voice which was pleading the doctors’ case. After listening to it for a couple of more minutes, I concluded that this voice seemed to resemble that of Dr. Nasir Abbas – the General Secretary of YDA Punjab.
Here someone intruded declaring that no application had been submitted regarding the bail petition of the doctors in lock-up; so this matter could not be discussed in court. Therefore, the revered Judge ordered Raja Zulqarnain – the lawyer of doctors– to submit the relevant documents immediately.
Then the Dr-Nasir-Abbas-voice implored the court to provide justice to his fellow doctors without any undue delay. To this, the Honorable Judge replied that the court would make sure that no one’s liberty is impinged illegally. He repeatedly assured the doctors that no injustice would be done to them. Further he said that the bail petition would be heard later in the day after the required documents had been completed.
With this, the short hearing came to an end and also the guess-the-voice game I had been playing all throughout.
As the people slowly started to move out of the congested space, I caught a glimpse of the President YDA – Dr Hamid Butt, who was in deep conversation with some other doctors.
I also saw Dr. Izhar Chaudhry, who represents Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) and is an Anatomy demonstrator at King Edward Medical University. He taught us the Upper Limb region in first year and was an excellent teacher. I wanted to meet up with him but lost him in the crowd and did not catch sight of him again.
As I was moving out, I spotted a young female lawyer dressed in white shalwar kameez and a black coat (yes, she was wearing a coat even in this severe heat). She had warm eyes and looked much harried for some reason. I don’t know why but I asked her a very simple question.
“What will happen now?” I asked – referring obviously to the YDA case.
She looked up from the pile of papers in her hands. At first agitated at being disturbed; but then perhaps she noticed my anxious expression and her voice softened,
“Don’t worry. All will be fine. Your case will be heard in the afternoon.” She comforted me.
And weird as it may sound, this stranger had managed to comfort me.
At that moment, it struck me that after all doctors and lawyers were not much different. If the job of one was to treat the physical wounds of their patients then the other solved the material problems of their clients. Both cajoled and soothed their subjects. Their methods may be dissimilar but their intent was the same – to cause well-being of people.
With this thought, I exited the courtroom of Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan. Outside, the narrow corridor was filled with groups of doctors chatting away and discussing their next strategy. Most of them were of the view that they would stay back till the next hearing. Some female House Officers had decided to visit the canteen to pass their time. Others were still discussing the case. They sounded very hopeful and trusted the superior judiciary to give a fair verdict.
As I moved out to the vast ground, I noticed two familiar faces so I went to greet them. They were PGs (post graduates) from the South Medicine Ward of Mayo Hospital. Having just arrived, they were clueless about the proceedings of the case so they asked me for details which I duly provided them.
After that I saw a huge group of doctors clad in their overalls standing in the middle of the ground. Some of the leader-doctors were addressing them. One of them was Dr. Amir Bandesha – President YDA PIC (Punjab Institute of Cardiology). After he had finished talking, I stepped forward. At that time, he caught sight of me and guessed that I wanted to say something. So he alighted from the stairs and came to stand in front of me. This simple gesture really moved me. It showed that the YDA leaders were very concerned about the opinions of their fellow doctors.
I asked him about the future strategy of YDA. Replying to which he said, at present they were primarily concerned about the release of their innocent colleagues. Following which they would resume their struggle for the demand of a proper service structure for doctors. Then it was time for me to leave so I thanked Dr. Bandesha for hearing me out and headed towards the gate of Lahore High Court.
Overall, this had been a great experience with a positive outcome which was announced later in the day. Yes the four doctors were released on bail and were given a very warm welcome by their colleagues.